+61 3 9272 5644

Latest News in Israel – 22nd June

IDF mistakenly kills 15-year old Palestinian, wounds another responding to stone throwing attack

The IDF mistakenly killed a 15-year old Palestinian teen and mistakenly injured another Palestinian who where near a violent incident of stone throwing along Route 443 in the West Bank late Monday night.

“A preliminary investigation showed that they were close to the scene but were not involved in the violence,” an IDF spokeswoman said on Tuesday morning.

The teen who was killed was later identified as Mahmoud Badran from Beit Ur al-Tahta, which is located in the area of both Ramallah and Route 443.

The wounded Palestinian was transferred to a hospital in Ramallah.

Abdul Karim Kassem, head of the village’s local council said Badran was in a car with other passengers “returning from a pool in a village near us when they came under fire.”

The incident occurred as soldiers were chasing Palestinians who had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at cars on the route, which is one of the main arteries between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The IDF arrested a number of Palestinians for their potential involvement in the stone throwing and are in the midst of interrogating them.

Three civilians were also injured, of whom two are believed to be Israeli and one might be a tourist.

The incident is part of an eight-month period of violent Palestinian attacks against Israelis.  The last deadly violent incident occurred on June 8 when two Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis at a cafe in Tel Aviv.

Over the past eight months, Palestinian attacks have killed 34 people, including two American citizens.

Israeli forces have shot dead at least 197 Palestinians, 134 of whom Israel has said were assailants. Others were killed in clashes and protests. (Jerusalem Post)

 Israel slams EU backing of international peace conference

The foreign ministers of the 28-member EU threw their support Monday behind the convening of an international peace conference at the end of the year, triggering an irritated response from Israel.

“The EU is determined, alongside other international and regional partners, to bring a concrete and substantial contribution to a global set of incentives for the parties to make peace with a view to an international conference planned to be held before the end of the year,” read a statement issued at the end of the meeting held in Luxembourg which – among other issues – discussed the so-called French diplomatic initiative.

The Foreign Ministry, which has come out strongly against the French initiative, issued a statement saying that “peace with the Palestinians will be achieved only through two-way, direct negotiations without preconditions.”

According to the statement, “the international conference like the one that the Foreign Affairs Council welcomed today distances peace because it enables the Palestinians to continue to avoid direct negotiations and compromise.”

This is an unfortunate step that moves backward the efforts to achieve peace which Israel is committed to, the statement continued.

The EU foreign minister’s statement also made reference to a report expected to be released in the next few days by the Mideast Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia, and UN – spelling out what if feels are the reasons for the current diplomatic logjam, and the steps needed to break it. The report is expected to slam both Israel’s policies in the West Bank, as well as Palestinian incitement and terrorism.

According to the EU foreign ministers’ statement, “Both parties to the conflict need to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a peaceful solution in order to rebuild mutual trust and create conditions for direct and meaningful negotiations aiming at ending the occupation that began in 1967, and resolving all permanent status issues.”

Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold made an indirect reference to the prospect of an international conference in remarks he made at a conference at the ministry’s Center for Policy Research marking 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreement that effectively drew the map – now unraveling – of the modern Middle East amid the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Borders, he said, need to be negotiated.

“No international fiat will work like Sykes-Picot, or the current talk about imposed solutions relating talks without preconditions.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe next week to talk about alternative ways to move the diplomatic process forward, perhaps through the convening of a regional summit under Egyptian auspices.

While Kerry did attend the meeting in Paris earlier this month that launched the French initiative, the US has not been overly enthusiastic about it, with one diplomatic official saying Washington was not keen on ceding center stage in the diplomatic process to the French.   (Jerusalem Post)

‘It’s absurd to distinguish global terror from terror in Israel’

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan blasted those who seek to justify terrorism in Israel and to claim that it is different from terrorist attacks around the world.

Speaking at the 16th annual Herzliya Conference, he said “It is absurd to try to say that the terrorism in Florida, California, Paris, Brussels and many other places around the world is the result of radical Islamic ideology and incitement and radicalization online and in mosques — but that the terrorism in Tel Aviv is the result of the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. This terrorism [in Israel] is the exact same kind of terrorism.”

He went on to say that “the democratic world is in a war against an extremist group of people who are trying to create a new world order based on radical Islam and contradicting the basic values of the enlightened world.”

Intelligence and ‎Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz said at the conference that “Iran continues to be the state that poses the main threat to Israel, even after the nuclear deal. This is largely because of its ongoing military support of terrorist organizations that focus on Israel as a target, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon — which is the greatest external threat to Israel.

“There is a real possibility of circumstantial fire, mainly because of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah’s reckless and megalomaniacal character.”

Katz added that “Hezbollah is not capable of posing an existential threat to Israel, but it is capable of attacking civilians and national infrastructure. The safest way to prevent a conflict tomorrow is to weaken Hezbollah today by imposing crippling economic and legal sanctions and applying pressure on Iran to stop providing weapons and funding. Weakening Hezbollah is an Israeli, Lebanese, regional and global interest.”

Katz also revealed that “Turkish trucks are transporting merchandise to the east using Haifa Port. They are using Israeli routes as an alternative to Syrian routes.”  (Israel Hayom)

Herzog blasted by opposition party chief for offer to split Jerusalem

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid bashed opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Monday for allegedly offering the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians in secret talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2014-2015, calling the move “dangerous and wrong.”

The criticism marked the opening of a rare rift between the two opposition parties, and came as Herzog has been pilloried by his own party for being an ineffectual leader in challenging the ruling coalition.

Lapid’s remarks came after Channel 10 reported Sunday that Herzog and Abbas worked through proxies ahead of Israeli elections last year to reach a framework for a future peace deal under which Palestinian refugees would receive financial compensation and the Western Wall would remain under Israeli control, Channel 10 news reported on Thursday.

Those talks fell apart after Herzog lost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election.

During a weekly party meeting, Lapid took Herzog to task for the alleged agreement, calling it a “classic mistake of the left.”

The Yesh Atid leader took particular issue with Herzog’s plans to divide Jerusalem, giving the eastern parts of the city to the Palestinians and placing the Temple Mount under the control of a multinational force, except for the Western Wall.

“This was a dangerous and wrong move. Jerusalem cannot be divided,” Lapid said.

“This is a classic mistake of the left, which always runs to announce ahead of time what it’s prepared to give up. That’s not how you negotiate in the Middle East,” he continued.

Herzog confirmed the talks with Abbas, although he did not confirm the specifics, and asserted that had they come to fruition they would have forestalled the wave of violence that swept across Israel and the West Bank in late 2015 and early 2016.

“During the talks with the Palestinian Authority president in 2014, I made efforts aimed at reaching understandings that would have prevented the wave of terror that I anticipated, just like the efforts I am now making so that the abandonment of the initiative for a regional conference by the extreme right-wing government won’t lead us to another war,” he said. “After rounds of wars and funerals nearly every year and over the past decade, I won’t listen to the mantra that threats can only be subdued through military force.”

On Monday, Lapid also gloated over the recent reports that Netanyahu had plans to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the possibility of going forward with the French peace initiative.

“Two years ago, during the past government, I turned to the prime minister — also publicly — and warned of the international break we are seeing today. I propose to [Netanyahu] exactly what he’s doing today,” Lapid said.

“I warned him that if we didn’t do it, there would be attempts to force a solution upon us from outside,” added Lapid.

During the Taba Summit, the final chapter of negotiations between Israel and the PLO before the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2001, Israel reportedly offered 97% of the West Bank.

In 2008, during negotiations between then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas, Israel offered to retain 6.3% of the West Bank and offered 5.8% of Israel proper in return.

Abbas has said that negotiations with Olmert nearly led to an agreement, but then the former prime minister fell into legal troubles and was out of office.

Abbas said he also felt Olmert’s offer to accept a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees into Israel did not resolve the issue.

The current Israeli government is calling for direct negotiations with the PA, but the Palestinians are instead pinning their hopes on the French initiative, which calls for a regional and international approach to negotiations.     (the Times of Israel)

Israeli Party Leader Yair Lapid: UN Spends American Money, Resources on Propaganda Campaign for Annihilation of Jewish State

The United Nations takes American money, resources and support and uses them for a propaganda campaign to further the annihilation of the Jewish state, an Israeli parliamentarian said on Monday, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.

MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the centrist Yesh Atid party, made this statement at the second annual “Towards a New Law of War” conference in Jerusalem, sponsored by Shurat HaDin-The Israel Law Center.

Calling for a halt in the flow of money into the international body, Lapid said, “The United States funds 22 percent of the UN’s budget. In fact, six countries – the US, Japan, France, the UK, Italy and Germany – fund more than 65% of the organization’s budget.”

According to Lapid, “The UN has lost it where Israel is concerned. It has lost its credibility, its healthy logic and its most important asset – integrity.”

The UN Human Rights Council’s attitude towards Israel, he said, long ago left legitimate criticism behind and entered the realm of “disturbing obsession.” Over the past 10 years, he added, “the UNHRC passed 61 resolutions condemning human rights abuses across the entire world, and 67 resolutions condemning Israel alone.”

This, he claimed, “is not a mistake. Instead of defending freedom, democracy, liberal values and world peace, some of the UN’s branches do the exact opposite. They have become abetters of Islamic fundamentalism and agents of terrorist organizations, like Hamas and Hezbollah.”

There is no reason, he argued, “for the US and other democratic countries to agree to finance this. During my last visit to Washington, I spoke about this with members of the Senate and House, both Democrats and Republicans, and all agreed that the situation is intolerable. The American taxpayer must refuse to spend his money on such things. It is not for this that he works so hard and pays taxes. When I talked to a top American diplomat at the UN, however, he claimed that it is preferable to exact change from within.”

Lapid then turned his attention to Iran, saying that it is “the only member of the UN that openly declares that its goal is to completely wipe out another member state, Israel. It goes without saying that the UN never demanded that Iran retract this statement.”

Nor, he added, “has anybody spoken about Israel’s being a flourishing democracy that represents the values on which the UN was established. Israel’s enemies, on the other hand, hang members of the LGBT community from telephone poles, believe that women are the property of their husbands and it is pretty clear that they don’t believe in organizations like the UN.”

Lapid also attacked other UN bodies, such as the World Health Organization and UNRWA, and concluded his lecture by addressing the leaders of the free world.

“We have missed the deadline,” he said. “Israel’s haters and the haters of democracy have beat us to the finish line and have changed the UN from within. The organization that preached justice and equality has fallen prey to a hostile takeover. If democratic countries abandon Israel, they will be the next in line.”   (the Algemeiner)

Palestinian Authority promotes well-poisoning blood libel

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry revived the well-worn blood libel of Jews poisoning wells this week.

The PA’s Foreign Ministry released a statement on Sunday citing a supposed ruling by a “Rabbi Mlmad” authorizing Israelis to poison Palestinian wells.

The official PA website called the supposed ruling a crime against humanity, and said Israel is fully responsible for it and should arrest the rabbi for incitement.

“What is the international community waiting for to interfere – the death of thousands of Palestinians of thirst?” the statement reads.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also accused Israel of cutting off water to West Bank Palestinians, a false accusation that was debunked last week.

False accusations of poisoning wells have been used to inflame violence against Jews since as early as the Middle Ages.

A Hamas official used a photo of UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler to promote the blood libel.

Basem Naim, a former Hamas health minister and self-proclaimed head of Hamas’ Council on International Relations, tweeted a photo of Eichler with the text: “V dangerous! #Israel Rabbi call 2 poison the water in the #WestBank 2displace Palestinians from their land #BDS” Eichler’s photo was featured in an article on the website the “Palestine Chronicle,” claiming that a prominent rabbi called to poison Palestinian water.

The MK declined to comment and was considering contacting Knesset security.

The “Palestine Chronicle” article and a similar one on prominent anti-Israel blog Middle East Monitor are mostly copied from an article in the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu titled “Palestinians decry rabbi call to poison West Bank water.”

Anadolu claimed that a “Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements,” said Jews are allowed to poison Palestinians’ water supplies.

The story claims its source for it was Breaking the Silence, which supposedly said the water-poisoning was an attempt to push Palestinians out of their villages so Israelis can take over. Anadolu quoted PLO Executive Committee member Wasi Abu Youssef denouncing the rabbi.

The Jerusalem Post was unable to find evidence that either a Rabbi Shlomo Mlma or Mlmad, or the Council of Rabbis in West Bank settlements exist.

There is a Council of Rabbis in Judea and Samaria, led by Yishai Babad. There is a Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El. Mlmad is similar to Melamed, and Zalman is Yiddish for Shlomo.

Rabbi Zalman Melamed told Gidon Shaviv, a senior research analyst for press watchdog CAMERA, “I did not say that and do not believe any rabbi would say something like that.” Melamed also called the report a blood libel.

In addition, Breaking the Silence’s spokesman said he did not know of any testimony about poisoning water.

Breaking the Silence publishes anonymous testimony from IDF soldiers claiming human rights violations by the military in the West Bank.

Last week, news site NRG posted a video of a founder of Breaking the Silence claiming that settlers led to the evacuation of a Palestinian village by poisoning a well in the Southern Hebron Hills.

Anadolu did not respond to questions as to its sources for the story, nor to a question whether Aness Suheil Barghoti, who wrote the story, or his editors, are aware that well-poisoning is a libel that has been spread throughout history to inflame violence against Jews.

As for the claim that Israel cut off water to the Palestinians during Ramadan, which UK newspaper The Independent and Al Jazeera reported last week, the opposite is true.

Mekorot national water company increased the water supply in evening hours during Ramadan due to greater demand, plus an additional 500 cubic meters to the Bethlehem and Hebron districts. Mekorot only supplies about a third of Palestinians’ water, and the rest is self-supplied.

A pipe burst the day of the Independent report, and was fixed within hours by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories.

“Any effort to connect the disruptions with terror is mistaken and misleading,” a statement by COGAT read.

“Given the failure to develop infrastructures as a result of the unwillingness on behalf of the Palestinians to convene the Joint Water Committee, there are problems in the water supply. The teams of the Civil Administration work tirelessly in order to ensure regular water flow.”

Reporting on the falsehoods, blogger “Aussie Dave” on pro-Israel blog “Israellycool” wrote: “These blood libels serve to cause irreparable damage to Israel and the Jewish people. It is important to ensure the truth is disseminated as quickly as possible, before this damage is done.”                  (Jerusalem Post)

NSC acting head: Turkey accord ‘very close’

Israel and Turkey are “very close” to a rapprochement agreement, Yaakov Nagel, the acting head of the National Security Council, said on Tuesday, echoing equally upbeat assessments coming out of Ankara.

Nagel’s comments in an Israel Radio interview come just before Israeli and Turkish teams are scheduled to meet Sunday in an undisclosed European location to put final touches on an accord to re-normalize relations that has been in the works for months.

The Israeli team will be headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Joseph Ciechanover, and the Turkish delegation will be led  Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, a former ambassador to Israel.

Up until recently, only the Turkish side has been talking about an imminent deal, but recently senior Israeli officials have sounded optimistic as well. At the beginning of the month National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said that a deal was just around the corner, and said that 90% of the issues had been resolved.

The once strong ties between the two countries frayed steadily following the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2002, and went into a tailspin in 2010 when nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara as they attempted to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Turkey recalled its ambassador, ousted Israel’s, and demanded that Israel apologize for the incident, pay compensation to the families of the victims, and lift the blockade of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an apology of sorts in 2013, at the urging of US President Barack Obama, and a compensation package for the families of the victims, on condition that all legal proceedings against IDF soldiers would be dropped, has long been agreed upon.

Israel, however, is unwilling to lift the blockade of Gaza, though it has expressed a willingness to allow Turkish humanitarian goods into Gaza through the Ashdod port, and let the Turks build a power plant and a desalination plant in Gaza.

Israel, in turn, has demanded that Turkey oust Hamas, which has established a command center in Istanbul. According to various media reports, Turkey will prevent Hamas from acting against Israel from its territory.

According to the Hurriyet Daily News website, the rapprochement accord will be signed in July by Sinirlioğlu and Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, who is his counterpart. By the end of the month, the ties will be normalized with the reappointment of ambassadors.               (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to receive its first F-35 stealth fighter jet

The Israeli Air Force will receive its first F-35 fighter jet on Wednesday — the first of 33 aircraft Israel has acquired — in a festive rollout ceremony to be held at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas. The aircraft is expected to arrive in Israel by the end of the year.

The F-35, or the Adir as it has been named in Hebrew, is a fifth generation stealth fighter jet that will position Israel’s air force at the cutting edge of technology. Questions regarding the aircraft’s capabilities have been raised but the Israeli Air Force is convinced that all the challenges facing its development have been nothing more than growing pains and that the aircraft is essential to Israel’s qualitative military superiority in the region.

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter held a closed-door meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who only assumed the post late last month.

Carter and Lieberman discussed regional security challenges in the Middle East and areas of mutual defense cooperation before Lieberman headed to Texas for the rollout ceremony.

Israel will be the first country outside the U.S. to receive the F-35.

Lieberman’s visit to the Pentagon came as the U.S. and Israel were in the process of negotiating a new 10-year defense aid agreement to replace the current one, which expires in 2018. Lieberman is interested in finalizing a deal with the U.S. before the next American president takes office in January.

It should be noted, however, that the main player in the talks with the Americans is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (via the National Security Council), not Lieberman.

In Israel, meanwhile, the air force will welcome four female graduates next week into its ranks of pilots, navigators and flight engineers following a grueling three-year training course.

Considering the fact that the course has only been open to women less than two decades, this year’s four graduates represent a relatively high number of women. The highest number of women graduated the course in 2011, totaling five. Forty-two women have completed the course since becoming eligible for it in the late 1990s, soon to be 46.

The air force has undertaken to increase the number of women in its ranks and has adapted the acceptance process into the training course to that end. The air force actively recruits women whose general profiles fit the course’s requirements rather than only passively accepting applications. The air force also holds recruitment conferences to raise awareness among women who are potential air crew members.

In the last five years, 6,000 women and 29,000 men have applied for the course.   (Israel Hayom)

Israel seizes wet suits believed to be heading to Hamas

Israeli border agents confiscated a shipment of wet suits they suspected of being en route to Hamas in the Gaza Strip to be used for a seaborne attack on Israel, the Defense Ministry said Monday.

Bearing uncanny resemblance to an incident last year, the wet suits were hidden in a shipment of sportswear coming in to the coastal enclave from the Palestinian Authority through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, the ministry said.

“The shipment was seized and an investigation has been opened to locate those involved,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Wet suits require a special permit to be imported into the Gaza Strip, lest they wind up in the hands of Hamas’s naval commando unit.

One of the wetsuits hidden in a shipment of sporting goods to the Gaza Strip, believed to be en route to Hamas, on June 20, 2016. (Defense Ministry)

One of the wet suits hidden in a shipment of sporting goods to the Gaza Strip, believed to be en route to Hamas, on June 20, 2016. (Defense Ministry)

During the 2014 Gaza war, a team of five Hamas frogmen entered Israel from the shore and approached a nearby Jewish community before they were spotted and taken out by an attack helicopter.

Last month, Israeli authorities foiled an attempt to smuggle metal pipes and motors into the Gaza Strip, which could have been used for building rockets and tunnels, the Defense Ministry said at the time.

In that case as well, the illicit materials were “camouflaged,” stuck in alongside “textiles and jewelry.”

This practice of hiding illegal goods among approved products has become the go-to method for smugglers. Earlier this year, electrodes were discovered hidden in butter from a Ramallah factory.                       (the Times of Israel)

Is Israel a Pariah? Not According to Its New Friends

By  Eli Lake                             The Bloomberg View


Many activists celebrate “Israel Apartheid Week” by agitating against the Jewish state at a rally or perhaps a roundtable discussion. This year, Dore Gold, the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, marked the occasion on March 10 by visiting the government that replaced the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The symbolism is delicious. Here is a top diplomat from a country compared by its foes to the regime of P.W. Botha meeting in Pretoria with diplomats who helped to bring that regime down. Gold made sure to visit Nelson Mandela’s home in Soweto, which is now a museum, in case the point was missed.

And yet many activists on both sides of this issue have been missing this point. First there is the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, known as BDS. One of its founders, Omar Barghouti, wrote in January that a meeting of an Israeli Knesset committee to combat BDS revealed an “Israeli fear of isolation.” In the absence of a peace process, BDS appears to have momentum as more and more academic associations, student governments and churches sign on to the campaign.

Then there is the counter-BDS movement. Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would divest his state’s funds from businesses that engaged in the boycott of Israel, and even individuals who advocate for such boycotts. Other states are now considering similar laws and prominent Jewish philanthropists are funding efforts to BDS the BDS movement, so to speak.

Both sides of this fight give the impression that Israel is becoming a pariah. And yet BDS has failed as both an economic and diplomatic weapon. Consider that since 2006, when the movement began, Israel’s gross domestic product has nearly doubled, going from a little over $154 billion to $299 billion for 2015.

Israel is also warming ties with countries all over the world, even as Europe and the U.S. are increasing the pressure over Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Let’s start with Africa. Next month, Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin to travel to African capitals for meetings with the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda is particularly significant because his brother was killed in Israel’s raid on Entebbe in that country 40 years ago to free hostages kidnapped by German and Palestinian Marxists. Back then, Uganda’s government gave refuge to terrorists; today it seeks Israel’s help in fighting them.

Israel under Netanyahu is also expanding links with China, now the country’s third-largest trading partner. Gold told me this week at his Foreign Ministry office that it’s almost impossible to get a seat these days on the El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Beijing. A similar story can be told about Israel’s relationship with India, whose Narendra Modi is expected to be the first Indian prime minister ever to visit Israel later this year. As the Israelis increase defense trade with India, it has also begun to end some of its historic support for the Palestinians at the United Nations.

Then there is Russia. Netanyahu has met with President Vladimir Putin four times in the last year. He has also worked out a deal, according to senior officials who spoke to me on background, in which Russia will allow Israeli jets to target members of the terrorist group Hezbollah operating in Syria, where Russians now control the air space.

“The prime minister is cognitive of the fact that the United States is the number one ally,” Gold told me. “But the relationship with Putin has vastly improved. Instead of being in conflict with him like we were, we are now making sure there is a line open to him.”

Finally, Israel is repairing and enhancing relationships in the Middle East. In 2011, Turkey downgraded its ties following Israel’s raid on a flotilla trying to breach the naval blockade of Gaza. This month, Turkey’s foreign minister announced that his country was one or two meetings away from normalizing the relationship again.

There is also much secret diplomacy between Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Israel has had such contacts with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the height of the peace process in the 1990s. But Gold told me there was an important difference between Israel’s Arab diplomacy today and during the peace process years.

In the 1990s, Israel was allowed to open trade missions and begin contacts with Arab states because a process was in place to create a Palestinian state. During the second intifada of 2000-05, these openings closed. Now, Gold says, his diplomacy with the Arab states resembles the dynamics that created the predecessor of the European Union after the end of World War II.

“The European Union was formed because of a mutual threat from Soviet armored divisions,” Gold said. Today, he argued, the Middle East faces the twin threats of Iran and the Islamic State, which “creates a lot of mutual interests between Israel and the Arab states.”

Not everyone is convinced on this last point. In April, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy hosted a rare public conversation between retired Israeli general, Yaacov Amidror, and former a Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. Despite the cordial environment, the Saudi prince made it clear that there would be no formal recognition of Israel until there was a just peace with the Palestinians.

Edward Djerejian, a former senior U.S. diplomat who now directs the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, agrees. “The Palestinian issue remains a central political issue that deters Israel’s full integration in the region,” he told me.

Nonetheless, the flow of diplomacy in the region is reversing. In the 1990s, Europe tried to persuade Israel’s Arab neighbors to accept it. Today, Israel quietly collaborates with its Arab neighbors as European states threaten to distance themselves over the Palestinian issue.

This is why so many Israelis worry, despite the new outreach to India, China, Russia and the Arab states. Yair Lapid, the leader of a major centrist party here, this year said his country had never been as isolated as it is today.

Ksenia Svetlova, a former journalist and Labor Party member of Knesset who serves on its foreign affairs committee, stressed this point as well. She told me she was more concerned with how Europe and America viewed Israel than she was with Turkey, Russia or Saudi Arabia. “We can have great tactical relations with non-democratic countries, Egypt is the proof,” she said. “But the true bond will always be with other countries that act like us and share our values.”

Put another way, Israel’s new friends are no substitute for its old ones.

Next American administration must grasp risks Israel faces

In the greater scheme of things, whichever candidate wins the upcoming US election, the US misunderstanding will remain unchanged, because they need to be fair.

By Micah Halpern           The Jerusalem Post


This is the season of the conventions. First the Republicans will convene in Cleveland and the following week the Democrats will meet in Philadelphia.

Each promises to be exciting. And the Middle East in general and Israel in particular will feature prominently in both US conventions.

When it comes to Israel, US administrations have a problem. Not just this administration. I’m talking past, present and, although we do not yet know who will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January, the future administration, as well. The White House just does not understand Israel. For the White House, Israel is an enigma – and not just Israel. As everyone who monitors US foreign policy is painfully aware, American administrations don’t really grasp the reality of the Middle East.

Do not mistake an affinity toward Israel or being pro-Israel for an understanding of Israel and the Middle East. And don’t blame America for this lack of understanding – it’s a part of America’s DNA.

Americans have an innate optimism. They believe that their point of view is the prevailing point of view and they feel that they can convince anyone. And if that doesn’t work, bribery – military aid, monetary aid, UN votes – will. Americans are hardwired to fundamentally be fair and even-handed, they want to make certain that everything is equal, that the playing field is even.

Here is the biggest problem with this approach: when the playing field is even, it is your friends that suffer the most.

And that explains the motivating factor for the now infamous US-brokered Iranian nuclear deal. The US took Iran out of the proverbial diplomatic doghouse and transformed the most dangerous nation in the Middle East region into a nation equal to all other countries in the region. By doing that it threw out the special relationships the US had built not only with Israel, but also with Saudi Arabia.

This administration did with Iran exactly what many past administrations have been doing with the Palestinians. The US has and will always see the Palestinians as weaker than Israel. Part of the objective of any deal brokered by an outsider, especially the US, is make both parties equal – or at least more equal. But Israel and the Palestinians are not equal, and I am not speaking about human rights and civil rights. I am speaking about politics, about political systems and their player participants.

Israel is, as the world is constantly reminded, a democracy. The Palestinian Authority is not. The PA suspended elections. The last PA parliamentary election, which took place a full 11 years ago, placed Hamas in power and elected Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, as the Palestinian prime minister, a position he held for a total of four weeks.

Salam Fayyad, his replacement, hand picked by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was extremely capable but hardly a prime minister. And yet, he held the position until his resignation six years later. Fayyad was never elected, he was an appointee, a US-trained economist who held the second most important position in the Palestinian world. And the US administration did not say a word, they let it go.

Abbas himself has postponed one election after another. His term ended in January 2009. There is actually a movement among regional Arab leadership, taking place right now, to oust Abbas, which was revealed in an op-ed in the Arabic Al Hayat, published in London and one of the most widely and devoutly read Arabic papers in the world.

American leadership has proven that, when it comes to the Middle East, the US does not understand the dramatic differences between the culture of government and the etiquette of democracy. And they do not comprehend the risks that Israel faces as a result of those differences.

Israelis want peace, not a facsimile of peace, not a partial peace. A sustainable peace. It’s what Israel wants with the Palestinians and what Israel wants in the region. And because US doesn’t understand that want, that need, they so misunderstood Israel’s opposition to the Iranian nuke deal.

Saying that they understood the risks Israel faces was condescending and diplomatic rhetoric. If it turns out that the US made a mistake with the deal, so be it. They will try to correct it, but they won’t be paying the price for that mistake. That distinction belongs to Israel.

The US deals in percentages. We hear it all the time: “This is the best chance,” “This is the last chance,” “This is the only chance.” Games of chance are for people who have resources to blow, and Israel cannot afford to leave anything to chance. When, during the Nixon administration, US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said that Israel has a Masada complex he was referring to an obsession with past tragedies and survival. He was explaining why the first stop of official visitors to Israel is Yad Vashem. But even Kissinger didn’t get it.

It’s about lessons learned from the past. It’s about the building blocks of the Jewish nation. It’s about understanding why defense is so important.

In the greater scheme of things, whichever candidate wins the upcoming US election, the US misunderstanding will remain unchanged, because they need to be fair.

No boycotts against Israel

BDS anti-Semites mustn’t be allowed to undermine U.S.-Israel relations

By Blake Fleisher                            The Washington Times


Last Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York signed Executive Order No. 157, directing state entities to divest all public funds supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The governor’s message was clear: “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.” This great victory for U.S.-Israel relations comes amid other victories against BDS, including the American Anthropological Association’s vote to reject the academic boycott of Israel, but additional measures are necessary to crush the movement at its core.

Many prominent American and Israeli voices, including Gen. David Petraeus and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, have categorized BDS as a “strategic threat” to Israel. The BDS movement primarily targets college campuses. Although no university in the United States has ever divested from Israel, that’s not the battlefield where the movement is winning. It’s winning on the battlefield of ideas. BDS supporters infiltrate student governments, social justice groups and other student organizations. They are well organized and protest far more effectively than any pro-Israel group, gradually winning the hearts and minds of average, apathetic students who know little to nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since these students are generally not exposed to a strong, pro-Israel movement, many will inevitably tend toward these anti-Israel views simply by default. Thus, when these students become the next generation of leaders in America, they will likely have more radical views on Israel than the Wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia which, unlike the BDS movement, supports a two-state solution.

A strategic threat to Israel inherently poses a national security threat to the United States. The U.S. and Israel share many common national interests. The two countries collaborate closely on intelligence-sharing and conduct major exercises together such as the biennial Juniper Cobra joint missile defense exercise. In a sea of dysfunctional governments and sometimes no governments at all, Israel is the cornerstone of stability in the region, and a model that many of its neighbors should follow. Most importantly, Israel allows the United States to project its power in the region. A weak, isolated Israel harms the security of the region and, consequently, that of the United States.

To protect this vital relationship, it is absolutely imperative that BDS supporters do not maintain positions in the U.S. government that allow them to influence our national security and foreign policy related to the Middle East. Although it’s perfectly acceptable and often appropriate to criticize Israeli policy, it is unacceptable to actively harm our national security. Furthermore, BDS is anti-Semitic based on the State Department’s own definition as it delegitimizes and applies double standards to Israel.

The idea that an anti-Semite who harms U.S. national security can have a position in U.S. foreign policy or national security may sound unfathomable, but it sadly happens all the time. As a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, I have witnessed students who support BDS obtain internships at the State Department and even obtain security clearances. This needs to be stopped immediately before real, irreparable damage is done. Thus, U.S. government agencies involved with foreign policy and national security should consider support of BDS to be a strong, negative factor in their hiring process.

Given our nation’s history, it’s critical that this does not become a witch hunt and resemble the “Red Scare.” The negative factor for BDS should be designed to look unfavorably upon only the individuals who are members of a group affiliated with the global BDS movement, such as Students for Justice in Palestine or Jewish Voice for Peace. Since BDS works against our national security and is inherently anti-Semitic, it would be only natural and expected of the U.S. government to prevent BDS supporters from obtaining government positions. This will help ensure BDS supporters will never have the kind of power in the country that they have currently on college campuses. We need to take Mr. Cuomo’s message one step further: If you boycott against Israel, America will boycott you.

Qatari Muslim Scholar Slams Radical Islam, Offers Practical Steps to End Terror

In what can be considered an incredible admission in the Muslim world, former Dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University, Prof. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, analyzes the roots of terrorism and explains how Muslims can, and should, end terrorism.

Prof. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, a former senior administrator at Qatar University, strongly disagrees with anyone who claims that poverty is the root cause of terrorism.

He delineates the actual causes of violent Jihad and then goes on to list a number of ways that Muslims can put an end to it.               (United with Israel)